The first ever GB Youth Rafting team hosted a reception at the Lee Valley White Water Centre to thank their sponsors and supporters ahead of their trip to New Zealand for the International Rafting Federation World Championships.
The reception was preceded with the team, all aged between 16 and 19, treating their guests to a white knuckle demonstration of their skills on Lee Valley’s Olympic course.
The team – six from Hertfordshire and one from Enfield – took to the water and performed two slalom runs and finished their display off with a sprint run.
Tring teenagers Ralph Hall, 17, and Jacob Hussain, 16, train every week alongside team-mates Andrew Skinner, Sam Daley, Elliot Taylor, Elliott Woodman and Matt Bishop under the guidance of Paz Blackwell, Ash Roper and Matt Blue who are in the senior men’s rafting team.
Ralph, who is also team captain, said: “We really wanted to show our appreciation to all those individuals and organisations who had donated to the team fund and we thought the best way we could do this was to invite them along and show them what we could do.”
After the demonstration, the Mayor of Broxbourne read out a letter the team had received from The Queen in which she sent them her congratulations and good luck for the forthcoming championships.
The team departs for New Zealand on November 8 and will be competing from November 15 to 17.
The championships take place in Rotorua and will be held on three different rivers, with teams pitted against each other in the slalom, head to head, sprint and endurance disciplines.
Amongst those competing will be teams from Brazil, Russia, Turkey and New Zealand.
Malcolm Ferris-Lay, who put the team together and is also from Tring, said: “The team have trained hard since they qualified in May. There is no doubt that with the other teams competing having many natural rivers to practice on, the GB team will have their work cut out.
“However, practicing at Lee Valley White Water Centre will have given us a huge boost.”
Wendy Daley, who is the administrator for the team, added: “Once we got over our initial excitement at the team being selected, Malcolm and I were faced with the daunting task of raising nearly £20,000 to get them to New Zealand and bringing the team to the attention of potential sponsors.
“After our initial wobble we looked at each other, shrugged, then said ‘this is doable’. The way the local community have rallied round the team has been phenomenal and although we are still trying to secure our last £800 we have achieved what we set out to do.
“Without the generosity and support of the Lee Valley White Water Centre and their staff and all those who donated to the team’s fund, none of this would have been possible. We would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our sponsors.
“We now have everything crossed for New Zealand.”